Dreaming of a Healthy City (Major Project)

Author: Kirstin Bittel, Rachel Hughes, Rose Gonzalez

Time: 1 class period
5-10 minutes making copies
Materials: Topographic maps of cities (1 copy per class period) City sheet, Healthy City Planning Sheet


Dreaming of a Healthy City is the introductory lesson to this unit’s final project. During the lesson students review the essential elements of a city. The complex challenge to design a ‘healthy city’ is introduced. Students must design the city within a certain physical geography. Each group of students bases their city on the relief of a current city, although they will not find that their location is an existing unit until after they have designed what would be a healthy city in this setting.

Students will be able to:
1. Identify, through a class discussion, the essential elements of a city.
2. Describe how climate and geography can determine the layout of a city as part of a group planning sheet and where essential elements should be located to maximize air quality and human health.

National Geography Standard
(2) How to use mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context
   2.3 How mental maps influence spatial and environmental decision-making.
(3) How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on earth’s surface
   3.D Apply concepts and models of spatial organization in order to make decisions.
(5) That people create regions to interpret Earth’s complexity
   5.4 How to use regions to analyze geographic issues

Teacher Background

Related and Resource Websites



1. At the beginning of class have the following definition written on the board: Utopia: an ideally perfect place; especially in its social, political, and moral states.

2. Ask students to write or draw what they envision when they think of Utopia. What would a utopian city look like to them? Do they include issues of health in utopia?

3. Allow students a few minutes to work this out on their own and then have student volunteers share their thoughts and ideas with the class. Record students’ ideas on the board.

4. Tell students that they are going to design a healthy city for all, a health utopia. They will need to include all the essential elements of a city to ensure that the inhabitants can live and thrive. To do this they will have to draw upon their experiences this semester in science, geography, language arts and mathematics.

5. Individually, students should list some of the basic components of a city in their notebooks.

6. Place topographic maps on the board at this time. Give students basic information about the cities as you tape the maps to the board. The actual cities and countries should not be revealed. (Tell students the latitude, altitude, general climate, and distance to the ocean see City Sheet in materials).

7. Once students have been given time to ponder the information about the cities, invite them to sign up to work on designing a city by placing their name below the corresponding topographic map.

8. When you have groups of 3 to 4 students in a group, close the group and allow the students to begin talking about essential elements they want in the city and where they plan to place each element. Students should use the planning sheet included in the materials or they can develop one of their own to organize their initial ideas.

For your information

Los Angeles
New York
New Delhi

9. Tell students that the following day they will begin the formal blueprinting and mapping of their cities.

Bring a blueprint of your own design to share with your group. Review your notes from other classes and bring any information you think might be relevant to your group.

Embedded Assessment
Are students able to identify the essential elements of a city?

Can students explain where each element should be placed in relation to each other?

Can students explain the effects of climate and geography on a city’s layout and development?


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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